Could you please tell me the meaning of "wasteful and inappropriate" in the following excerpt from the third chapter of The Great Gatsby? “Let’s get out,” whispered Jordan, after a somehow...

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Jordan invites Nick to join the group of people she came to Gatsby's party with. Nick observes:

Instead of rambling, this party had perseved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the function of representing the staid nobility of the countryside--East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety.

The group had steadfastly refrained from joining in the general spirit of the affair but had formed a sort of private enclave in which they were all on their best behavior. By "spectroscopic" Fitzgerald must be suggesting the widespread and multi-dimensional drinking and merrymaking going on all around them. A spectroscope was a device for making photos look three-dimensional, so the idea is that they were completely surrounded by men and women behaving in an uninhibited fashion, mainly because of the alcohol they were consuming plus the influence of the jazz music of the period.

Jordan and Nick spend a half-hour with this company and are depressed by them. Nick calls that half-hour "somehow wasteful and inappropriate," probably signifying that they weren't getting any pleasure out of what should be a pleasurable event and that the correct behavior which he and Jordan were forced to engage in was "inappropriate" for the time and place and spirit of this occasion. It was "wasteful" because they only had a limited amount of time to have fun, and sacrificing a half-hour to these obvious deadheads was wasting a significant percentage of that time.

It was also preventing Nick and Jordan from meeting other people--and meeting new people is usually the purpose of going to parties and the reason for giving parties. The "stuffed-shirts," "deadheads," "stiffs," "snobs," who brought Jordan to Gatsby's wild party, to quote Nick's words out of order, "preserved a dignified homogeneity instead of rambling..." Rambling means the same as "circulating," and the fun of parties is in circulating and striking up conversations with strangers, which can lead to all sorts of things, including business deals and illicit love affairs. At a party like those of Gatsby, a guest feels privileged, especially after a few drinks, to approach anyone and to barge into any group. Nick and Jordan are adventurous spirits and would like to ramble and experience mini-adventures in encounters with similar free spirits.

Nick explains that Jordan's party consisted principally of three married couples. The fact that they were married may have prevented all six of these people from "rambling," even if they had been tempted to do so by the liquor, the music, and the infectiousness of the great majority of revellers.

It is paradoxical that the most distinguished and best-behaved guests are the most out of place and their behavior the most "inappropriate."


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